October 23, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
41°F

Granting a wish to trip the light is fantastic again

WADSWORTH — With lights low and the sweet strains of a waltz drifting through the halls of Wadsworth Middle School, Peter Mihal took Catherine Murphy for a turn around the dance floor.

For Mihal, it was a night when the words of an old song, “fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you,” came to life at the Wadsworth Senior Citizens’ Prom. He and Murphy reigned as royalty after they were crowned prom king and queen.

April Henry, left, healthy lifestyles director at Elmcroft of Medina, shares a quiet laugh with resident Peter Mihal, 90, as he prepares to dance at the Wadsworth Senior Citizens’ Prom on Saturday at Wadsworth Middle School. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDY A. TOTTS)

April Henry, left, healthy lifestyles director at Elmcroft of Medina, shares a quiet laugh with resident Peter Mihal, 90, as he prepares to dance at the Wadsworth Senior Citizens’ Prom on Saturday at Wadsworth Middle School. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDY A. TOTTS)

Mihal, 90, who resides at Elmcroft of Medina, an assisted-living facility, expressed a wish to “dance at a fancy ball” one more time.

A fairy godmother in the guise of April Henry, Elmcroft’s healthy lifestyles director, wanted to make that wish come true for the man with fond memories of doing the jitterbug and polka at local dance halls with his wife, Lois.

Henry explored the possibilities through Second Wind Dreams, an international organization Elmcroft works with dedicated to helping members of eldercare communities fulfill wishes, but she found the answer closer to home when she heard about the senior prom from Lori Fultz, activity and volunteer coordinator at the Wadsworth Center for Older Adults, at a Senior Network meeting.

The annual event, coordinated by the Wadsworth Older Adults Foundation and Wadsworth Center for Older Adults, provides an evening of dining and dancing for seniors.

Nancy Likens, director of the Wadsworth Center for Older Adults, said she hears many stories about people who didn’t get to go to their high school prom coming to fulfill a lifelong desire.

“It really is a dream come true for a lot of people,” she said.

Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, this year’s Wish Upon a Star dance on Saturday was a perfect fit for Mihal.

“Once he heard about it, he couldn’t stop talking about it,” Henry said as she watched him dance with Murphy, 78. “We try to keep our hearts open to dreams.”

Cutting a dapper figure in his best suit, a carnation boutonniere pinned to the lapel, Mihal reminisced about meeting his wife at the Aragon Ballroom.

“Do you know what a robber’s dance is?” he asked, straightening his tie and sitting back in his chair. “You can cut in and steal someone else’s partner.”

He explained that Lois’ date had been stolen, and so had his.

“So there we were, standing alone in the middle of the hall.”

When they found each other on the dance floor, “it was like we’d been dancing together for years,” he said.

He was drawn to Lois the moment he saw her.

“She had great-looking legs,” he said with a grin.

And the attraction was mutual. “While we danced, she told me ‘You’re the man I’m going to marry.’ ”

The road to marriage wasn’t without a few speed bumps, however.

She refused to go with him the first time he asked to take her dancing at the Chippewa Lake Ballroom because he called her the afternoon of the dance instead of in advance.

The second Saturday he asked, despite the fact he again called the same day instead of earlier, she relented and went with him.

“I told her I liked doing things on the spur of the moment. Two days after that (first date), we drove to Covington, Ky., and got married,” he said.

Throughout their 52 years of marriage, dancing remained one of their greatest pleasures. “We went to various places. We went to Chippewa a lot. My wife loved to polka.”

As silver star decorations sparkled in the soft lights, Mihal danced a fast number with Henry, twirling her around as the band Good Grief played “You Thrill Me.”

He came back to the table smiling.

“I’m telling you, I’m ecstatic,” he said. “I’ve never had such popularity. It’s all thanks to April.”

Contact Judy A. Totts at jatotts1701@gmail.com.